Throughout the annals of music history, few guitarists have left as indelible a mark on the electric guitar landscape as Eddie Van Halen. In 1972, he teamed up with his brother Alex to create the iconic rock band, Van Halen. However, it wasn’t until 1978 that their debut album exploded onto the scene, showcasing Eddie’s unparalleled guitar prowess.
Eddie Van Halen’s meteoric rise made him a global guitar sensation, influencing myriad artists across generations. Yet, like all musicians, he too had his inspirations. In a candid revelation, Eddie once shared the name of the guitarist who greatly impacted his early musical journey.
Eddie Van Halen’s Ultimate Guitar Inspiration
Born in Amsterdam in 1955, Eddie Lodewijk Van Halen moved to the U.S. at the age of seven. It was here that he and his brother Alex would eventually collaborate with David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony, paving the way for their legendary rock band.
Before establishing his groundbreaking guitar style, Eddie had his own musical inspirations. Chief among them was the legendary Eric Clapton. Reflecting on Clapton’s influence, Eddie remarked in a 2015 interview with What It Means to Be American, “Eric Clapton was my guitar beacon because of his pure, unadulterated style. He played directly from his heart, without any unnecessary frills.”
He further elaborated, “I was particularly captivated by his era with Cream. However, as his musical direction changed post-Cream, my own journey took me elsewhere.”
Eddie’s admiration for Eric Clapton wasn’t limited to mere words. He had often expressed his profound respect for Clapton’s work with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Cream. Speaking with Guitar World in 1981, he reminisced, “I could replicate every note Clapton played. Locally, I was known for that. We even named our band Mammoth as a nod to the great Cream.”
Eddie believed that Clapton’s real magic shone in his live performances with Cream. He said, “Cream’s live sessions truly resonated with me. While I adore Clapton’s artistry, Cream’s rhythm section of Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker was simply electrifying.”
Despite gaining prominence with The Yardbirds and earning accolades with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, it was with Cream that Clapton truly became a rock sensation.
In the subsequent years, Clapton’s musical style veered towards a fusion of Blues and Pop, endearing him to a wider audience and cementing his place as a musical titan with over 280 million record sales globally.